Need help avoiding hangover? Less booze, more H2O

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Brian Chui, a 23-year-old Los Angeles publicist, says he’s tried a lot of them, but so far, “nothing works that great for me.” This year, Chui says he may try new anti-hangover pills combining aspirin and caffeine that his friends have been touting.

Zakhari, the government expert, said the product may or may not be harmful, but could give drinkers “a false sense that `I can drink as I wish because I have the cure.’”

Some people think popping a couple of Tylenol tablets after a night of drinking will help prevent hangover symptoms, but experts warn that can be dangerous. Both alcohol and acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, are broken down in the liver, and taking them together can cause irreversible liver damage.

The risk of combining the two is small in a healthy person taking a recommended dose of Tylenol. But Zakhari says aspirin and ibuprofen are safer alternatives to treat hangover-related ills, and the best advice is to avoid Tylenol for a couple of days after drinking because even some healthy people may be vulnerable. Plus more than 600 over-the-counter medicines contain acetaminophen, so it’s pretty easy to accidentally take too much.

Alcohol can irritate the stomach and aspirin and ibuprofen can cause stomach-bleeding, so they should be used with caution, a govermment publication on hangovers advises.

A study to be published in the February edition of the journal Drug Safety found that cases of liver damage linked with accidental overdoses of acetaminophen more than doubled between 2000 and 2007. The analysis of data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers found a rise in liver damage caused by acetaminophen alone, and in medicine combining it with opiate drugs, which includes the painkiller Vicodin.

The study lacked data on alcohol use, but it’s likely some cases involved drinking, said study author Randall Bond, a medical toxicologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Most liver damage seen in the study was minor, he said.

Of course, routine, excessive use of alcohol alone can cause liver damage, so making hangovers a habit is not a good idea.

Time is really the only cure, Zakhari said. Because drinking alcohol can cause fitful sleep, getting extra sleep the next day can help. Zakhari advises calling in sick if it happens to be workday.

“I have seen some people go to work with a hangover and their output is somewhere between zero and 1,” he said.

As for Zakhari, he’s never even been drunk. He can’t tolerate alcohol.

“If I drink more than one drink, I get nauseous and vomit,” he said.

So to celebrate this year, he’ll probably have a “casual glass of wine with dinner with friends and watch the ball drop.”

Cheers!

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